GETTING BACK TO OUR ROOTS Series: A Yoga Journey with Brooke Cole

As both a teacher and student of yoga, I am constantly looking for new ways to feel inspired about my practice, and in turn inspire others. While I appreciate what social media has done to promote the benefits of a regular yoga practice, I worry that in the rush to look good and to take snapshots of advanced poses in exotic locations, that we water down the real essence of why we practice asana in the yoga philosophy. We practice asana to explore all the subtle layers of our physical being that have developed over time to reveal that deep resting place of who we really are. Aristotle once said that, “knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Yoga helps us to get there by learning acceptance, compassion, and gratitude for who we are. When we truly know ourselves, we deepen our understanding of our place in this world, our purpose within it, and our relationship with others. In the rush to perform advanced asana, we miss out on the opportunities to explore those deeper, more subtle layers. In striving for the ultimate pose, we miss out on the exploration of those built up layers, and how they ever came to be in the first place. Our bodies hold our stories. Avoiding and denying those stories just calcifies them deeper. Rushing to the end result of an asana, without exploring the imperfect bits of who we are is not yoga, it’s denial. Doing a bunch of poses without any deeper reflection is not yoga, it’s a workout. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s important to recognize the difference. Because unless we truly dig deep within ourselves, get uncomfortable and “workout” our inner selves, our outer-physical self is just a shell, an empty vessel full of denial destined to repeat the same unconscious stories over and over again. A flower doesn’t bloom from the petals down; it blooms from the roots up. This is the true essence of yoga. We go within to understand without. To explore this further, and overcome my own denial I’ve been using props a lot more in my practice. In doing so I’ve been able to sit with those deeper, uncomfortable layers that I tend to run away from with more awareness and compassion. By acknowledging and embracing them breath by breath, I give them the freedom to change and evolve. Advanced yoga is not advanced asana, it’s advanced awareness. As Eckhart Tolle stated, “awareness is the greatest agent for change.”